Friday, October 29, 2021

      Welcome to my introduction of the Olympic National Park. Facts first - Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Originally designated as Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 by President Theordore Roosevelt, it was re-designated as Olympic National Park in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt. ONP has four distinct regions within its boundaries; Pacific Coastline, alpine areas, west-side temperate rainforest, and drier east-side forests. It also has three ecosystems - subalpine forest and wildflower meadows, temperate forest, and rugged Pacific coastline. ONP is an international Biosphere Reserve, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and 95 percent of the park’s 3,245,806 acres are designated as the Olympic Wilderness. (Thanks to Wikipedia for these facts!)

     My introduction to ONP came in the summer of 1972, when I took a summer job at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. I didn’t even look at a map until I was in the bus station in Seattle, and I was a little taken aback to see that the road basically ended just past the resort! This job changed my life - I met my future husband, and have lived on the Olympic Peninsula since 1974. My knowledge of the Park took another leap in 1979, when a fellow teacher organized a trip with students to explore ONP. He was a former backcountry ranger, and I went along as a chaperone. We spent the first week exploring different areas of the Park, and the second week we went on a backpacking trip to Mount Olympus, the crown jewel of ONP. I had never backpacked before, and had no idea that this trip was in the Epic category of hikes. Although I didn’t summit (I couldn’t bring myself to rope up and get belayed up), I can say I have been on the Blue Glacier, and everytime I see Mount Olympus from Hurricane Ridge, I still can’t believe I’ve been there.

     Most Park visitors won’t experience ONP in this manner, but many will make the 17-mile drive to Hurricane Ridge, with it’s views of the Olympic Mountains, as well as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands, and Canada to the north. Hurricane Ridge is a very popular spot, and parking is limited at the Ridge, so visitors may experience waits. It’s worth the drive, though, and I’ve even ridden up there on our tandem. The lodge is rustic, and there are park rangers who lead nature walks, as well as snowshoe walks in the winter. There is a small ski area with a couple of rope tows, and a poma lift. Hurricane Ridge, with an annual snowfall of 400-plus inches, definitely can live up to its name with high winds and blizzard conditions. 

     Lake Crescent is another spot to visit. The second deepest lake in Washington state, this is beautiful to drive around, and the Lake Crescent Lodge, which dates back to 1916, is lovely. A gift shop, restaurant, and beach access are available to visitors, who can walk under the highway and visit Marymere Falls, or for the hardy, take the trail up to Storm King, with views of Lake Crescent, Lake Sutherland, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. After leaving Lake Crescent, head west to visit Sol Duc Hot Springs, with the mineral-spring pools, as well as a fresh-water pool. Sol Duc Falls is two miles away and a short walk up the road, and not to be missed.  

   I love the coastal area of Olympic National Park. There are several access points for beach lovers, and my favorites are Kalaloch and Ruby Beach, with its sea stacks. Mora and Rialto Beach, and the boardwalk hike from Lake Ozette to the ocean are great ways to experience the Park. For forest lovers, visit the Hoh Rain Forest, where rainfall is measured in feet, anywhere between twelve and fourteen feet annually. 

     Visitors who want to experience the variety that is Olympic National Park will do a lot of driving, but it’s worth it. For the backpacker, Wilderness Camping Permits are required, but there are still plenty of day hikes where visitors can still experience ONP from beyond a paved trail. I’m lucky to have this beautiful Park in my backyard!

Olympic National Park

Friday, January 1, 2021

The End (of 2020)

 It's over. I met my goal, and exceeded it. I've walked, hiked, rode, and spinning biked my way to a grand total of 1,170 miles. When I hit 730 miles, a double, my goal had been made, and I decided that anything I did after that was a bonus. After a couple of days of resting on my laurels and thinking that was good enough, I decided it wasn't, and decided to try for a triple. 

Am I surprised? A little, because that distance seems like a lot to me. It's like walking from Port Angeles to the Grand Canyon. I wonder how far I'll get in 2021?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Challenge, and Now What?

  I was a little surprised to see how long it's been since I've done a blog post. It's been almost two months. I was trying to think why I haven't posted, and I can't say why. I haven't been just sitting around, because I've added nearly 200 miles to my total mileage since then, and part of those miles came from a local challenge we participated in, the Summer OAT Challenge.

This challenge involved walking or riding on the Adventure Route portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail. I never thought I would be on this part, mostly because it's single-track, and I don't ride on dirt (if I can avoid it). The entire route was about 22 miles, and W figured the best way for us to do it was in 5 sections, staging vehicles at either end of each section. It took us five weeks, one section a week, and I'm glad we did it. There were some rewards, of course; a shirt, a bandana with with route on it, and an adult beverage, beer for him, cider for me. Part of our entry fee was donated to the, the organization involved in the construction and maintenance of the trail system. 

Our first section was not my favorite, only because it involved trudging up a long road to actual trail. No switchbacks to break up the grade, just up a gravel road. Once we hit the trees, things definitely improved. The majority of the distance was in the trees, and the trail itself was really nice. We found chanterelle mushrooms in three of the five sections, always a bonus! We hardly saw any people, one guy on the second section, and a family on bikes with four boys out front, followed by parents and a cute little girl with a killer helmet - on single track! Section four we ran into two women walking at least three dogs, but the last section, which is the easiest to access from the main road had the most people - trail runners as well as cyclists. We even saw a friend who rides a lot. I'd heard about a place on the last section called The Living Room, and I finally got to see it. And, because my husband has both ridden and worked in the area, I saw the first place he worked on his first day of work with the DNR, which included a bee sting. My workplace seemed quite dull after this!

When the challenge was completed, it was kind of a letdown. We had a hiking date every week, and I looked forward to getting out. We had beautiful weather, except for a little bit of drizzle the first day, but we had blue skies and sunshine. I saw places I honestly did not think I'd ever see. I even got to sit on one of the living room benches. I want to do the second section again; it was my favorite. 

Now what? This challenge gave us an opportunity to explore some new local territory. I've surpassed my goal for the 365 Mile Challenge 2020, and with some extra effort (probably in the form of cycling) it is very possible for me to get to a triple, which would be awesome and somewhat unexpected. There are still some local hikes I'd like to do, and if we ever leave the Olympic Peninsula, there are some hikes in central Washington I'd like to do as well. The reality is, I've met my goal, but I definitely have some options.


Getting Started

Moss and Feathers

Heading into the fireweed and on to the timber

The Living Room

21 miles down, 1 to go

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Olympic Discovery Trail, Moving Further West

Since I've started riding again, the miles have started to add up. I like to ride from the house, but at least once a week, it's nice to put the bikes on the rack and drive to a trailhead. I decided last week that I would plan to ride my new bike at least once a week, and so far, that's what I've done. Last weekend, we rode east. Today, we rode west.

A couple of weeks ago we rode from the trailhead at the top of Fairholm Hill to the Camp Creek Trailhead. That was a great ride, and I'll certainly ride that section again, but today we started at Camp Creek and rode west along a shared road, the Mary Clark Road, which terminates at Highway 101 just west of Sappho, between the two bridges that cross the Sol Duc River. This was a section I was curious about, so that's what we did.

This ride was totally on the road. The first thing that happened was W wanted to turn around; he thought he saw something down a trail. What he saw was an elk, minding its own business, browsing along a closed road grade. It was pretty hard to see, with the sunlight filtering through the trees, but I did see it, and that's how our ride started. The road was easy to ride; the first several miles had a great shoulder, but we had the road to ourselves. The first rig we saw was a Forest Service truck, parked off the road; someone was out doing their work. We could see the second rig; it was bright red, and around here, that usually means a Department of Resources vehicle. We recognize these rigs - W drove one during his years as a DNR Land Manager. We saw the young woman, getting her vest on before heading out to work. Until we hit the end of this section, which was 10 miles in length, we didn't see another vehicle on the road. 

Highway 101 looking east

After a short snack and water break, we turned around and headed back to the trailhead. We saw a few more vehicles, including a car we had seen when we were turning around. The man stopped, and asked us if we needed any water, which was really nice. It turns out he's a Forks local, and out for a drive with an older man. After him, we saw a couple of trucks which came out of driveways along Mary Clark Road, four men on quads who drive out to the area from Port Angeles to work on quad trails on Forest Service land, and two loaded logging trucks. Those two trucks were the only ones that came up behind us, and it's a little unnerving! The forest was a mix of newer trees, and some older stands that had been pre-commercially thinned. And one section through this mix was straight for two plus miles - easy riding. 

This was a good ride, and I could appreciate how touring riders would like this section, with it's quiet two lanes, but once they hit Highway 101, they will be on a pretty busy main road - for now. I've ridden on 101, and didn't really enjoy it, because of the traffic and the narrowness of the shoulders. And now that I've ridden this section, I don't know that I'll need to do it again. My curiosity has been satisfied, and the section east of the trailhead is nicer. Still, it was a good 20 mile ride, with beautiful sunny skies and temperatures in mid-70s. I'll look forward to our next trip out on the bike.


Friday, July 17, 2020

She Was Right; It Was a Game Changer

In my last blog post, I had mentioned that I was thinking about buying an ebike. This came about from a conversation with a woman on a day we had ridden our tandem from our house to the Elwha River Bridge. The woman basically said, "Just go buy one - it's a game changer!" She reiterated what I'd heard before - they make the hills easier, they are comfortable, and they are fun. My husband had ridden a friend's ebike a few times, so he knew that he would be purchasing one this summer. While W ran into the bike shop one day, the ebike guy, who knew I was waiting in the car, came out - on his bike - to give me a sales pitch! I was a captive audience. Then, a friend who had just purchased one stopped by the house, and he let me take a test ride around the block. Talk about a series of coincidences - we headed to the bike shop.

I took a test ride consisting of a couple of miles. One of the things I really wanted to test the climbing ability on hills. If you have avoided cycling because of hilly routes, you know that hills can be tough to get up, and are sometimes you just have to dismount and walk to the top when you run out of gears. One of the popular trails locally goes along the Port Angeles waterfront, and Francis Street has a little park and connects to the trail - it's short but steep; in other words, the perfect test area. I messed up a little on the gears, but with the power assist, I made it up the hill fairly easily. We rode back to the shop, and I bought the bike on the spot. It was the right size, the seat was comfortable, and I was sitting upright. We had to go home and put the bike rack on the car, but we took a ride that very afternoon, right back to the Elwha Bridge. I have never come up the hill so easily, and did manage at one point to leave W in the dust! I kicked it up, and made it almost up to 20 MPH - and on a slight uphill grade, too! 
I've ridden at least once a week since I brought the bike home. We did a nice ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail from Seibert Creek to the Railroad Bridge and back, and this week we rode from the top of Fairholm Hill west of Lake Crescent to the Camp Creek Trailhead in the Cooper Ranch area. This ride was also on the ODT. We had great weather on both rides, and the ride west of the lake was really nice. The trail was pretty much ours, and the few folks we saw were all on bikes. There were two new sections of trail we hadn't been on since the last time we rode out that way. The Olympic Discovery Trail is an excellent way to explore the Olympic Peninsula, and we are looking forward to riding other sections in the future. The trail is paved, and it is for non-motorized use; walking, riding, and equestrian. 

1st Ride - Siebert Creek east to the Railroad Bridge Park

The Dungeness River

Ride # 2 - Fairholm to Camp Creek

The Sol Duc River

I'm looking forward to riding more this year. I have fenders, and a mirror (bifocals are not the best for checking for cars and other riders behind), and I've already gotten much better at shifting. I know that probably seems a little silly, but on the tandem, all I do is pedal - no steering, shifting, or braking. I need to remember to not grab the front brake so hard, though; my Specialized Como is heavy, and I don't need it landing on top of me! Will I ride on dirt? That remains to be seen, although we have an event coming up on the Adventure Route, the OAT Summer Challenge - 22.7 miles of Adventure Route that can be explored on foot, on bike, or on a horse. With 8 weeks to complete the course, and some nice swag upon completion, I may get my chance. 

This was a good purchase, and the woman on the bridge was 100% correct - total game changer.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

Mid-June Check In, and a Milestone

There's no other way to put it - I hit 365 miles. That happened on June 5th, which is the earliest I've ever accomplished this goal. I have been steady and consistent about walking and riding my spinning bike, and those miles have added up. It struck me that for some reason, this year is different from the other two years I've participated in the 365 Mile Challenge. But why is that?

I began the 2018 challenge late; I was able to register in March, when registration re-opened. I wish I had a record of my miles, but they got dumped when the app I was using suffered a very large hiccup, and I lost all my data. I know I barely made it to 365 miles in late December, and I was determined to hit 365 miles much earlier in the year, and I wanted to achieve a double, 730 miles, in 2019. There was never a question that I would sign up again, and I did.

2019 started off strong - really strong! I was walking in rain and snow, and even bought skis, which I swore years ago that I would never own again, and I even got miles, not many, on them. I was willing to walk in the dark, using a headlamp - I was owning this challenge! And then I got the stomach flu, which knocked the stuffing out of me.  I was down, as in barely moving, for five days, and it took well over a week for me to get my strength back, but I have to admit - my motivation was gone. I went from going out daily to skipping several days at a time. My journal and calendar were filled with holes where I just ignored exercise altogether. Even though I hit 365 miles in late July, I dawdled around, never really regained my momentum. The double slipped away from me, and I barely made it to 500 miles on December 30th - 501.23 miles, thanks to a tandem ride.
Enter 2020. I signed up, and I was ready to go. I wanted a neater, more colorful tracker this year. I was inspired by other participants cool-looking trackers! Some of them were so darn clever. I know that nobody was going to see my tracker, but hey, this challenge is for me, and so I rummaged around and found some colored pencils - much nicer! I decided to start this blog to record my year, and I ended up being a 365 Mile Challenge ambassador. When the materials arrived, I was happy - there was a journal, a couple of trackers, a welcome letter, and they all came in a folder, which is great because it's so much easier to keep everything in one place. My organizer-librarian-self loves that! I knew that I would continue to take pictures of my walks, and I wanted to also continue to post in the Facebook group, as well as on Instagram. I'm not trying to out-walk or out-bike anyone, but I always enjoy seeing the posts and pictures from other participants that I am encouraged and inspired to get out there! The people in this group go amazing places! They walk, hike, ride, kayak, ski, snowshoe - if there is a self-propelled mode of transportation, they/we are doing it. It is truly hard not to be motivated. 

Is there a secret to this? For me, it is being accountable to myself, through tracking and journal entries. I am tracking each day, and even if the day is 0.0 miles, I record it. I keep an accurate total going, and I record it as a fraction. My journal entries are short entries of where I went, was I walking, riding, or spinning, maybe something about the weather; I look back and often recall the day. I check in daily with the 365 Mile Challenge Facebook group, and I comment on member's entries and photographs, and I make myself part of the community. I participate in Mini-Challenges, and I've got the medals to show for those! On Mileage Monday, I often post late in the day, so I can include the Monday miles. There are all sorts of miles posted, and it can be a big range, but does that matter? We are all on our own path here.
I've got the second half of the year to get to my goal, 730 miles, and I plan to get there the same way I got to 365 miles; consistent movement, tracking, and continued involvement in the Facebook community. I'm planning on cycling more, and there is an e-bike in my future. As an ambassador, I plan on making a couple more videos about places I like to go to, and I'll continue this blog. I would encourage members to post pictures, tell us where you were, and celebrate your own story! Watch the monthly videos Val, the owner, posts - it's fun to see that snake or frog or vista picture you took flash by, and you can always check the YouTube channel for past videos. 2020, as weird as it's been so far, has been pretty darn good for me in terms of the 365 Mile Challenge.


Monday, June 1, 2020

Blackbird Island & Waterfront Park

With the stay-at-home orders being lifted, and the possibility of finally traveling off the Olympic Peninsula on the horizon, it's time to start thinking about future walks. I haven't been off the Peninsula since late February, so the majority of my miles have been done straight out the front door. I'm not complaining; I'm lucky to have such pretty places so close to home. But Blackbird Island is a walk we usually take when we are at our cabin at Lake Wenatchee. And we've walked it in all seasons. If you are in central Washington, and visiting Leavenworth, a small town with a Bavarian theme, this is an easy walk to take if you are tired of shopping and hanging out in beer gardens.

The loop trail around Blackbird Island is easily accessed off Commercial  Street, behind the main area of shops. Most people access the trail at the bottom of the hill; head to the left. From there, head over the bridge, and you're on the island. The loop trail is a very easy and flat walk, and at the western edge, you can go off the trail to Enchantment Park, which features ball fields, restrooms provided seasonally, and a very cool bicycle pump track. Kids of all ages ride the track, and there is also an adjacent skate park. When you're done watching the activities, head back to the trail. The walk back is along the Wenatchee River. When the property was acquired by donation, 17 acres, and over 3,040 feet of riverfront became available to the public.  I love walking along the river; there are several places where there are good opportunities for pictures. As you continue along the trail, you'll hit another bridge - keep going! Once you hit the first bridge again, head east. There is one section that has a series of benches; I like to think I'm in Paris or some other European city, enjoying a leisurely stroll.
Leavenworth or Paris? 

Fall leaves 

As you continue on the trail to the east, there is a very nice play area for kids. We like to continue along the trail, which offers nice views of the Wenatchee River, and when we pop back up onto Commercial Street, we head back to the west to our vehicle, or to have lunch. It's a little over 2.5 miles for the route we usually take, but there are other ways to get back to town.

What I like about this walk, which we have done in all seasons, is the scenery. Walking along green trees in the spring and summer, lovely fall leaves in autumn, and snow in the winter - the island offers views of the river and the Enchantments in the Cascade Mountains. This is a very popular area, so be prepared to not be alone. We've encountered both high school cross country runners, and Forest Service fire fighters doing training, as well as people on bikes and lots of families. There have also been some wildlife sightings, specifically bears, but there are warning signs, and the trail will be closed if necessary. You will hear and see birds, and maybe even a deer or two, and the squirrels and chipmunks won't let you forget you're in their habitat. There are interpretive signs along the trail as well. Enjoy your stroll!
Winter work by resident beavers

The Wenatchee River with fall leaves

Looking west to the Enchantments

I know it won't be long until we head back to central Washington, but for now I'm still sticking pretty close to home. I am closing in on my first 365 mile goal, and expect that I will make that before June is over.


       Welcome to my introduction of the Olympic National Park. Facts first - Olympic National Park is located on the Olympic Peninsula in W...